problem. It seems that circuits designed with large open loop gains sometimes oscillatewhen the loop is closed. A lot of people investigated the instability effect, and it was prettywell understood in the 1940s, but solving stability problems involved long, tedious, andintricate calculations. Years passed without anybody making the problem solution simpleror more understandable.In 1945 H. W. Bode presented a system for analyzing the stability of feedback systemsby using graphical methods. Until this time, feedback analysis was done by multiplicationand division, so calculation of transfer functions was a time consuming and laborious task.Remember, engineers did not have calculators or computers until the
70s. Bode present-ed a log technique that transformed the intensely mathematical process of calculating afeedback system
s stability into graphical analysis that was simple and perceptive. Feed-back system design was still complicated, but it no longer was an art dominated by a fewelectrical engineers kept in a small dark room. Any electrical engineer could use Bode
smethods to find the stability of a feedback circuit, so the application of feedback to ma-chines began to grow. There really wasn
t much call for electronic feedback design untilcomputers and transducers become of age.The first real-time computer was the analog computer! This computer used prepro-grammed equations and input data to calculate control actions. The programming washard wired with a series of circuits that performed math operations on the data, and thehard wiring limitation eventually caused the declining popularity of the analog computer.The heart of the analog computer was a device called an operational amplifier becauseit could be configured to perform many mathematical operations such as multiplication,addition, subtraction, division, integration, and differentiation on the input signals. Thename was shortened to the familiar
, as we have come to know and love them.The op amp used an amplifier with a large open loop gain, and when the loop was closed,the amplifier performed the mathematical operations dictated by the external passivecomponents. This amplifier was very large because it was built with vacuum tubes andit required a high-voltage power supply, but it was the heart of the analog computer, thusits large size and huge power requirements were accepted as the price of doing business.Many early op amps were designed for analog computers, and it was soon found out thatop amps had other uses and were very handy to have around the physics lab.At this time general-purpose analog computers were found in universities and large com-pany laboratories because they were critical to the research work done there. There wasa parallel requirement for transducer signal conditioning in lab experiments, and op ampsfound their way into signal conditioning applications. As the signal conditioning applica-tions expanded, the demand for op amps grew beyond the analog computer require-ments, and even when the analog computers lost favor to digital computers, the op ampsurvived because of its importance in universal analog applications. Eventually digitalcomputers replaced the analog computers (a sad day for real-time measurements), butthe demand for op amps increased as measurement applications increased.